In the ever-evolving tapestry of modern music, certain artists possess an innate ability to transport listeners to entirely new realms through their craft. Erland Cooper, a visionary musician and composer hailing from the windswept Orkney Islands, is undeniably one of those rare talents who has the power to transcend the ordinary and take us on a mesmerising journey through sound.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Erland Cooper has consistently pushed the boundaries of what music can achieve. His unique ability to blend traditional folk elements with modern electronic soundscapes results in a sonic alchemy that is both hauntingly beautiful and profoundly evocative. His compositions are more than music; they are living, breathing entities that resonate with the human soul.
Erland Cooper’s impact extends far beyond his albums, as he is also a champion of environmental causes and a visual artist whose work beautifully complements his musical output. We’ll delve into his multi-faceted approach to art and his unwavering commitment to preserving the natural beauty of Orkney, exploring the profound interconnectedness between his art and the environment that inspires it.
Join us on a voyage through sound and emotion as we speak exclusively to Erland, who visits Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday 17 September.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest album? What themes or emotions were you exploring?
This work is a meditation on time and temperature, along with themes surrounding the narrative of climate change. It’s a multi-movement album over 7 movements. As the music arguably becomes more hopeful, the fidelity of the audio recording becomes more fragile than ever. During the recording process, the audio recording was placed on a ¼ inch magnetic tape. This then lay sunbathing on my studio roof on the hottest day of recorded time in the UK. This process created sonic artifacts that I have kept in the finished work as it travels through a timeline of temperature rises, from the opening note to its closing. I also recorded classical musicians at sub-zero temperatures in Glasgow. The music is simply a slow glacial ascent across each movement. The recording process mimics the compositional one or vice versa. I hope a listener will be rewarded for their patience, with a slowly thawing, burning hope.
Your music often has a strong connection to nature and the environment. How has your relationship with nature influenced your creative process?
I like to collaborate with the natural world itself a little deeper than solely field recordings or a sense of place. Using light, temperature, soil, salt water for example in a creative process in some form, permits me to work with factors I have no control over. Rather than writing ‘about’ nature, I’m also writing with and within it. As an example, this can help me create new orchestral string articulations. I’m rather fond of this one written on a score “play with the wow and flutter of unearthed magnetic tape” or “now play backwards, in reverse like a tape machine rewinding”.
You’ve collaborated with various artists and musicians throughout your career. Can you share some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while working with others?
Working with Simon Armitage was remarkably spontaneous. His words unfolded into melody and were sung back again by soprano Josephine Stephenson so quickly, they felt like a swift returning to nest. Dara McAnulty’s voice and words also resonated in such a way that seemed like they had always been there in the music – sonorous and ancient like the bark of an old tree.
Many of your compositions have a meditative and introspective quality. How do you hope your music affects listeners on a personal level?
Music can create a sort of internal landscape to a listener. I find that interesting. If music makes you feel something while writing or recording, the chances are it might make others feel something too.
Your Orkney Trilogy was deeply rooted in the Orkney Islands. How has your connection to this place shaped your music and identity as an artist?
Orkney seems to be an ever-present inspiration to me. If I have run out of things to say or write about, going home often helps. This is a constant field to plough for me. We are all shaped by the first few decades of our lives, and we take that forward into the next few.
Your music videos are visually stunning and often complement your music beautifully. How involved are you in the creative process of translating your music into visuals?
This is important to me. Each composition is its own little world. Visually, through collaboration, I can expand upon that. I have worked closely with Alex Kozobolis on all of my releases, and it is fruitful pairing. We work instinctively with each other and that is a precious thing.
Are there any specific musicians or composers who have had a significant influence on your work and artistic development?
I’m inspired less by composers and more so by the natural world and of course talented musicians. There is so much to find in the magic of the everyday.
What can we expect from your future projects and endeavours? Any exciting collaborations or new directions you’re exploring?
In June 2024, I will reveal my buried (or planted) tape and release it exactly as it sounds from the earth, along with a one-off concert at the Barbican in London and, perhaps, St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney. It is currently drying out in record shops up and down the UK. This is a project very dear to me. It is a meditation on value and patience and a collaboration with the soil and earth itself.